Mushrooms and an Axe

It’s as if the mushrooms’ folded world has its own colour spectrum, warm and dark; brown, orange, red and yellow, a shiver of green in the darkness of a decaying log. Trees curve over the steep valley, grey barked, zigzagging the distant sky. This is a house of trees, earth walls rise steep on either side of the stoney floor, thick with moss. Branches are everywhere, the branches have mushrooms growing on them.

A man leaves footprints in the moss, exclaims and climbs the side of the valley to find trees almost entirely obscured by fungi, two children run just behind him. A little farther back a woman, tall, looking up at trees and sky. They stoop and peer into tiny worlds, calling to each other with each new discovery: coppery black headed mushrooms, leather skinned mushrooms like coins, long solemn white mushrooms  like old women who know secrets.


Outside of the forest with its mushroom halls, I find a brown package in my mailbox. When I open it, I unwrap a beautiful mid sized Viking battle-axe head made by James Austin. James has been working at understanding and perfecting the ancient process that the Vikings and their contemporaries used to forge-weld axes from a number of different pieces of iron and steel. The products of his research are these exquisite elegantly engineered axes which are authentic in every sense of the word, both as contemporary objects and as reconstructions of historical weapons. here is a link to his website –

I’m going to carve a haft for this axe and I’ll show it to you when I’m done. I have some pieces of beautiful figured maple or flamed yellow birch which I’m considering using. I spent some time in my early twenties yarding logs from the forest with my Clydesdale draft horse ‘Chance’ and I had the opportunity to talk with many old men during that time. They shared their lore of trees with me– yellow birch for wiffle-trees and sled runners, hop hornbeam for axe handles. So I may find some hornbeam for this handle.

Night comes early. I have a few short sword blades and seaxes that I’m working on along with a number of other projects. I’ll show them to you too when the time is right. For now puddles grow frost, the sun sets behind the hills, stars prick the eastern horizon.

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Jake Powning

Jake is a professional swordsmith, artist, and writer who explores the strange place where traditional culture and the land meet.


  1. The photos, and the imagery of your word hoard is awesome.

  2. Spectacular on all counts! As usual. with the Hobbit on it’s way many thoughts are turned to mushrooms (at least for me)and you don’t go into the woods without a heafty axe at your side (old Dwarven proverb) so this post hits on many levels, thank you!

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